Music History

28 years ago today, Nirvana played Lee’s Palace–and it got ugly

On April 16, 1990, Nirvana rolled into Lee’s Palace shortly after laying down some demos in Madison, Wisconsin, with producer Butch Vig. Those songs would eventually be re-recorded as Nevermind.

Fans who showed up that Monday night had no idea they were getting a preview of the band that changed the course of rock about 18 months later. All they knew was Nirvana was this noisy, semi-punky band from someplace in Washington State that recorded for Sub Pop. Some may even have been aware of the band’s debut album, Bleach.

Dave Grohl was still not in the picture. He wouldn’t join the band for another six months or so. Keeping time that night was the much-abused Chad Channing. And he endured much abuse that night at Lee’s.

At the end of the show (check the setlist here), Chad was subjected to a volley of beer bottles that smashed against the wall behind him. Kurt started it and was joined by the audience.

Here’s full audio of that gig. If you skip to the end, you can hear the shattering of glass as poor Chad tried to take shelter.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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2 thoughts on “28 years ago today, Nirvana played Lee’s Palace–and it got ugly

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  • A friend who worked at the Dance Cave put me on the list, so a few of us wandered down to watch Nirvana that night. They were dreadful, and I turned to a friend and said, “These guys are such losers! How did they get so much great press?” And yes, I DO admit that I was terribly wrong, yet it was a horrible performance. R.I.P.


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